… or as they say in Germany, “Guten Rutsch” – which loosely translates as “good slide” into the new year.

We saw 2012 slide in while standing on a bridge in Dresden, anticipating a grand official firework display. In the event it was unofficial, continuous and city-wide. Many spectators were toting plastic bags filled with rockets that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a battlefield.

Only we elfin safety-minded Brits cowered; everyone else thought it great fun standing an arm’s-length away from teetering beer-bottles holding metre-long missiles.

The Germans are pretty laid-back: something I noticed also applied to their media. Over here we’re preoccupied with the euro but over there no-one seems concerned. Hopefully they’re right and we’re wrong.

December marked the end…

… of an annual Salisbury tradition – the St John Singers’ Christmas Wassail organised by John Powell.

Over the years his tireless efforts raised tens of thousands of pounds for local charities, and for me the Wassail always really marked the start of the festive season.

The Wassail regularly filled the City Hall, and somehow John managed to attract some big names to act as MC. (That didn’t always work, and I treasure the memory of one distinguished visitor – whom I had known quite well when we were both working hacks – getting steadily more tired and emotional as the evening progressed.)

As usual the highlight of the final Wassail in the Guildhall was the “12 Days of Christmas”, and again considerable ingenuity had gone into the various tables’ props. Ours involved blown-up rubber gloves and shower-caps, so no prizes for guessing the table number. But with no Wassail what will we do next year?

Derrick Alford MBE…

... was a man who was as good-natured and kind-hearted as anyone I’ve ever met. I knew him originally as a district councillor, and our acquaintanceship was renewed when we returned from Brussels and joined Salisbury Rotary Club during Derrick's presidency.

After years on the council he had a wealth of knowledge about local people, places and politics (and sometimes his reminiscences combined all three). In recent years he’d become the club's Almoner and he took it seriously, not only visiting sick members but also keeping in touch with the bereaved and ensuring they were included in Rotary social activities. A fine man who will be sorely missed.

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